Active listening, sharing experiences can go a long way in the face of systemic issues
In my opinion, 2017 was a very terrible year. We were inundated with awful news on a daily basis. My reactions perpetually got more apathetic and became more withdrawn because of these stories. The sheer amount of bad events that happened during 2017 makes it impossible to list a few, because I believe all of them are equally important and deserve to be read into individually. However, I learned something very important throughout last year: listening and being supportive of people, no matter how small these actions may seem, are important in making the world a better place.
There were many issues I wasn’t well informed on, such as President Donald Trump banning transgender people from enlisting in the American military. So, I read as much as I could to become better informed and understand people’s experiences—especially pieces written by trans people. I opened my heart and became more empathetic about issues towards people with different lives than mine, because I think solidarity is important during difficult times. I became an active listener, willing to listen to anyone who wanted to open up about their life and hardships.
I never had the opportunity to vote when I was growing up in Saudi Arabia, and was quite surprised to learn that many Canadians are apathetic about using their right to vote. I understand that many political candidates are not ideal, however, I believe indifference contributes negatively to many people’s lives, especially marginalized people. Supporting and encouraging more people of colour, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community to run for political office would also help us take steps in the right direction. In my opinion, the more diverse our politicians become, the better and more accommodating policies will be.
In addition to participating in the democratic process, other actions we can all take include talking and writing about our own experiences, and listening to other people’s stories. We need more diverse voices in every level of society. We need to fill the large gap of knowledge that has been suppressed for many years. It takes a lot of courage to write and talk about experiences that may be traumatic, sad, insulting or demeaning—and I respect anybody who doesn’t want to do that, since it isn’t their obligation to speak out. But doing so does help other people understand experiences they will never live through.
Also, I think it’s important to talk about positive experiences. Young people are always looking to relate to people who look like them or who have a similar background. By sharing positive stories and experiences, people can relate to each other in meaningful ways. They can see a perspective they don’t see often—a positive one.
The more visible representation we have, the more diverse the stories become. I’ve tried to do this in some of my writing as I’ve enjoyed interjecting personal anecdotes into my works, and it may give people an insight into a life different from their own.
In my opinion, we are facing huge problems as we enter 2018. Old systemic issues that have plagued us for many years, such as racism, misogyny, war, homophobia, famine and violence, continue to exist. Yet, we are also facing new emerging problems that are unprecedented, for instance our increasingly wild weather patterns due to climate change, and the threats on Twitter of nuclear war by the United States and North Korea. Nonetheless, there is no reason to remain apathetic—I believe indifference is a privilege only certain segments of the population can have.
I’ll personally continue trying to listen, grow and become a more empathetic person. I’m not egotistical enough to think I’m going to solve the world’s problems, but if I make my community a little bit better, I’ll be happy. Small acts of positivity and collective action have great potential to at least make the lives of those around you better, and hopefully have a positive impact on a larger scale.
Graphic by Zeze Le Lin